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people playing indoor football at an event run by Save the Dream in Brazil
Recognising that hosting mega sport events may pose risks to children, UNICEF and Save the Dream collaborated to promote integrity, child protection, safety and security in sport. Rio de Janeiro

Understanding risk and risk management

Following on from a situation analysis, and potentially conducted in parallel, is a thorough assessment of risk factors in your initiative and mitigation strategies to reduce them.

The purpose of a risk assessment is to establish a safe environment for all participants and address any risks prior to implementation.

In order to reduce risk, you need to know what and where the risks are, and how they expose your participants to harm. A risk analysis, using the following guidelines, can help you perform this initial assessment:

  • Involve your participants, parents, coaches and other key stakeholders in identifying risks and mitigation strategies
  • Consult directly with any identified ‘at risk’ groups and consider specific strategies to meet their needs
  • Research further the scenarios highlighted to form a base of information sources to strengthen mitigation strategies with best practice approaches

The next step is to consider the likelihood and potential impact of the risks identified. It is important to remember that if risks pose a threat to participants and this can not be appropriately or realistically mitigated, the programme itself may not be viable.

Risk rating tools, such as those classifying risk by both severity and likelihood (UKA Risk Assessment Guidance, p4), can be useful in conjunction with tables that map risks identified against mitigation measures (Sport for Protection Toolkit, p48. A comprehensive review should also include a named person responsible for monitoring the risk and the impact the risk could have on the project (e.g Vanuatu Sport for Development Design Document, p45). These tools are referred to as risk management matrices.


International standards and safeguarding

Risk considerations are particularly important when children or vulnerable groups are involved in your initiative. For example, recruitment screening and criminal record checks for those engaging with participant groups are important first steps for any initiative, but become even more important for safeguarding vulnerable groups.

The International Safeguards for Children in Sport report highlights the right of children to participate in safe and enjoyable sporting activities. The report highlights 8 required actions (safeguards) to ensure children are safe from harm in sport activities:

  1. Developing Your Policy
  2. Procedures for Responding to Safeguarding Concerns
  3. Advice and Support
  4. Minimising Risks to Children
  5. Guidelines for Behaviour
  6. Recruiting, Training and Communicating
  7. Working with Partners
  8. Monitoring and Evaluation

International standards for risk management (ISO31000) highlight the importance of assessing and identifying risk at all levels of programme design, such as those of the eight safeguards, whilst also including further wide ranging risks such as reputational, technical, operational, and geo-political risk.

In addition, there will be local level requirements for risk mitigation, such as formal operational insurance plans and authorisation of research conduct through national research board approval.

For future programmes and projects, the following resource may be of use for assessing and monitoring risk:

Sport for Protection Toolkit A.31 Tools for Risk Analysis

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This article is from the free online course:

Sport for Sustainable Development: Designing Effective Policies and Programmes

The International Platform on Sport and Development